Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has urged Haumole Olakau’atu to skip Tonga’s mid-season Test to help NSW save the State of Origin series, as Brad Fittler revealed Daniel Tupou had committed to the Blues for a must-win game two.
Manly back-rower Olakau’atu torched the Tigers on Sunday with his most impressive performance of the season, strengthening his case for inclusion in the NSW squad. But there have been reports the 23-year-old will instead choose to represent Tonga, who play New Zealand later this month.
Amid speculation Tupou would prioritise the Tongan side over the Blues, Fittler said he had spoken to the towering winger and gained an assurance he would be available for game two at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
Rookie Origin centre Kotoni Staggs is also eligible to play for Tonga, but must first overcome a shoulder injury picked up in NSW’s series-opening loss.
Olakau’atu put his name right in the frame with a barnstorming display at Campbelltown Stadium, which prompted his coach to recommend he choose NSW for this year’s series.
“I’d think as far as his heritage and Tonga, it’s always going to be there,” Hasler said. “Origin is a rare game. It’s a piece of history for players’ aspirations. He’ll get good counsel.”
Haumole Olakau’atu crashes over for Manly against the Tigers.Credit:Getty
And if there was any doubt about Olakau’atu’s suitability for the Origin arena with pressure building on Tariq Sims and Ryan Matterson to keep their spots, he received emphatic support from Manly veteran Kieran Foran.
“He’s been electric,” Foran said. “He’s some sort of player, isn’t he? He’s only going to get better and that’s the scary thing. He’s not only such a well-rounded athlete, but his footy smarts and awareness are growing every game. It’s frightening how good he can be.”
Stand-in Sea Eagles skipper Jake Trbojevic did his case for a NSW recall no harm with a tireless display against the Tigers, with Hasler campaigning for his return to the Blues fold.
“Early in the week it was disappointing when I found out [I hadn’t been chosen for game one],” Trbojevic said. “But I’ve had a really enjoyable two weeks at Manly. Once I got over the initial disappointment, it was a bit of a silver lining. To get to lead this club has been a nice challenge for me. I’ve really enjoyed it to be honest.”
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